Tuesday Hymns: “Almighty God, Thy Lofty Throne”

The Trinity Hymnal is full of hymns that come to us from The Psalter which was published by The United Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1912. One of those hymns is our Tuesday Hymn of the Week, Almighty God, Thy Lofty Throne. It is a metrical version of Psalm 89:14-18 and speaks to us of God’s reign over all things from His heavenly throne. An old pastor friend of mine, who is in heaven now, Lester White, used to say, “God sits high, and sees low.” It is comforting to know that the God who rules over all things, also knows all things. He makes no mistakes, and is always working for His own eternal glory and our eternal good. As Romans 8:28 reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

It is often sung to the tune, Winchester New.

Almighty God, thy lofty throne
Has justice for its cornerstone,
And shining bright before thy face
Are truth and love and boundless grace.

With blessing is the nation crowned
Whose people know the joyful sound;
They in the light, O Lord, shall live,
The light thy face and favor give.

Thy name with gladness they confess,
Exalted in thy righteousness;
Their fame and might to thee belong,
For in thy favor they are strong.

All glory unto God we yield,
Jehovah is our Help and Shield;
All praise and honor we will bring
To Israel’s Holy One, our King.

Tuesday Hymns: “Psalm 13”

There are times when a tune and lyrics come together like chocolate and peanut butter (Reese cups), sweet and tart (Sweetarts), or cranberries and apples (Cranapple Juice) [okay, I am not so sure about that last one]. I believe that today’s Tuesday Hymn fits that description perfectly. Psalm 13 is the heartfelt cry of a hurting believer to a God in whom he trusts. I am convinced that he knows in his head that the Lord cares for him and is with him because this author wrote in Psalm 139: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” However, his hurt is so real and so deep that it is difficult for him to feel that God is there. Thus, the Psalmist has painted a portrait of a man who is determined to trust and rest in God, even when all of his being is crying out, “You are alone!

When the compilers of The Trinity Psalter attached this Psalm to the tune of O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” it captured the cry of one whose emotions caused him to lament, “How long wilt Thou forget me? Shall it forever be?” Thankfully, it ends with the mourner faithfully stating, “But on Thy tender mercy I ever have relied; with joy in Thy salvation my heart shall still confide.”

How long wilt Thou forget me?
Shall it forever be?
O LORD, how long neglect me,
And hide Thy face from me?
How long my soul take counsel,
Thus sad in heart each day?
How long shall foes exulting,
Subject me to their sway?

O LORD, my God, consider,
And hear my earnest cries;
Lest I in death should slumber,
Enlighten Thou mine eyes:
Lest foes be heard exclaiming
Against him we prevailed;
And they that vex my spirit
Rejoice when I have failed.

But on Thy tender mercy
I ever have relied;
With joy in Thy salvation
My heart shall still confide.
And I with voice of singing
Will praise the LORD alone,
Because to me His favor
He has so largely shown.

Tuesday Hymns: “Psalm 139” (The Trinity Psalter)

I have mentioned before how much that I enjoy singing the Psalms in corporate worship. For the last two Sunday nights we have been singing the 139th Psalm from The Trinity Psalter. Of course, the Psalm itself tells so much about the glory of the Lord we worship: we are told of His omniscience in verses 1-6, His omnipresence in verses 7-12, His omnipotence in verses 13-18, and of His justice and mercy in verses 19-22, and 24. Along with the theological depth of the Psalm, we hear the literary beauty of this particular metrical version. For example,

Where shall I from Thy Spirit flee,
Or from Thy presence hidden be?
In heav’n Thou art, if there I fly,
In death’s abode, if there I lie.

We sang the Psalm to the tune of New Winchester, and the Psalter listed Maryton as the tune of choice. Both are easily sung, and are appropriate to describe the transcendence and immanence of our holy and loving Lord.

Our Tuesday Hymn of the week: Psalm 139 from The Trinity Psalter.

LORD, Thou hast searched me; Thou hast known
My rising and my sitting down;
And from afar Thou knowest well
The very thoughts that in me dwell.

Thou knowest all the ways I plan,
My path and lying down dost scan;
For in my tongue no word can be,
But, lo, O LORD, ‘tis known to Thee.

Behind, before me, Thou dost stand
And lay on me Thy mighty hand;
Such knowledge is for me too strange
And high beyond my utmost range.

Where shall I from Thy Spirit flee,
Or from Thy presence hidden be?
In heav’n Thou art, if there I fly,
In death’s abode, if there I lie.

If I the wings of morning take
And utmost sea my dwelling make,
Ev’n there Thy hand shall guide my way
And Thy right hand shall be my stay.

If I say, “Darkness covers me,”
The darkness hideth not from Thee.
To Thee both night and day are bright;
The darkness shineth as the light.

My inward parts were formed by Thee;
Within the womb, Thou fashioned me;
And I Thy praises will proclaim,
For strange and wondrous is my frame.

Thy wondrous works I surely know;
When as in depths of earth below
My frame in secret first was made,
‘Twas all before Thine eyes displayed.

Mine unformed substance Thou didst see;
The days that were ordained to me
Were written in Thy book each one,
When as of them there yet was none.

Thy thoughts, O God, to me are dear;
How great their sum! They more appear
In number than the sand to me.
When I awake, I’m still with Thee.

The wicked Thou wilt slay, O God;
Depart from me, ye men of blood,
They speak of Thee in words profane,
The foes who take Thy name in vain.

Do not I hate Thy foes, O LORD?
And Thine assailants hold abhorred?
I truly hate all foes of Thine;
I count them enemies of mine.

Search me, O God; my heart discern;
And try me, every thought to learn,
And see if any sin holds sway.
Lead in the everlasting way.

Tuesday Hymns: Psalm 32

I love singing from The Trinity Psalter. I am not one who believes that the Bible teaches exclusive Psalmody (one who believes we should only sing Psalms to worship God when we gather as God’s people), but singing Psalms (of course in a different language, meter, etc.) that have been sung by the people of God since 1000 B.C. (and before) is a reminder to us that we are not the “new kids on the block.” We are a part of the people of God who have existed not for centuries, but for millennia. Thus, our Tuesday Hymn for this week comes from The Trinity Psalter: Psalm 32. (Sung to the tune, VOX DILECTI, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say.”)

This Psalm shouts to us the truth that “there is nothing new under the sun.” David’s problem in the 11th century B.C. is the same problem that plagues us today: sin. David speaks of the shame and distress that come because of our rebellion against the holy Law of God, and the great relief that comes to us when we are forgiven through the mercy and grace of a holy God. He did not understand from his historical perspective that his (and our) sins were paid for through the perfect life and sacrificial death of the God/Man, Jesus Christ; but he did understand that it was all because of the mercy of the living God.

So rejoice today if you are one of the blessed ones against “whom the LORD counts no iniquity.”

What blessedness for him whose guilt
Has all forgiven been!
When his transgressions pardoned are,
And covered is his sin.
O blessed the man ’gainst whom the Lord
Counts no iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is not
Deceit or treachery.

When I kept silent, my bones aged;
My groaning filled each day.
Your hand oppressed me day and night;
My moisture dried away.
Then I to You admitted sin,
Hid not my guiltiness;
I said, “I will before the LORD’
Transgressions now confess.”

Then You did all my sin forgive
And take my guilt away.
For this when You are near at hand
Let all the godly pray.
The rising floods will harm him not.
You are my hiding place.
And You will comfort me with songs
Of victory and grace.

Instruction I will give to you
And teach you as you go.
My watchful eye will guide your steps;
My counsel you will know.
Be not like senseless horse or mule
Which if you would subdue
You must with bit and bridle hold
To bring him close to you.

The wicked many pangs endure,
But steadfast cov’nant love
Encircles ev’ry man whose trust
Is in the LORD above.
Be glad and shout, you righteous ones,
And in the LORD rejoice!
And all whose hearts are just and true
Sing out with joyful voice.

Tuesday Hymns: “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee” (Psalm 130)

In 1523 Martin Luther wrote “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee,” which was his German rendition of Psalm 130. He also wrote a tune to accompany it, but the one time we tried to sing it on Sunday night it was an unmitigated disaster (Apparently, his tune just didn’t resonate with our 21st century American ears). We usually sing it to the RUF tune made popular by Indelible Grace (of course, we do it without the funky guitar, although it always seems to end with each of us doing his or her own thing on the last phrase like a group of jazz musicians late on a Saturday night).

Tunes, notwithstanding, the message of the Psalmist was clearly captured by Luther’s verse. One of Luther’s strengths was his understanding of the depth of his personal sin, and the greater depth of the mercy and grace of God mediated to us through the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Our German friend trumpets the grace of God throughout the hymn but especially in the second verse: “To wash away the crimson stain, Grace, grace alone availeth; Our works, alas! are all in vain; In much the best life faileth: No man can glory in thy sight, All must alike confess thy might, And live alone by mercy.”

May the Lord give us such a vision of our sin, but even more so, a vision of God’s abounding grace.

From depths of woe I raise to thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication:
If thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before thee?

To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth:
No man can glory in thy sight,
All must alike confess thy might,
And live alone by mercy.

Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On him my soul shall rest, his Word
Upholds my fainting spirit:
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.

What though I wait the livelong night,
And till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in his might;
It doubteth not nor feareth:
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait till God appeareth.

Though great our sins and sore our woes
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is he,
Who will at last his Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow.

Tuesday Hymns: “How Blest is He Whose Trespass” (Psalm 32)

My blog posts have been hit and miss lately (okay, less hit and more miss) but I thought since I had a little time I would at least post a Tuesday Hymn. This is a hymn that we sang yesterday during worship that caught my attention (of course, when one is worshiping God, all hymns should catch his attention) since it spoke of the relief that one feels when he has experienced the Lord’s forgiveness. It is a metrical version of the 32nd Psalm from The Psalter, 1912. The Psalmist contrasts the guilt and heaviness of the sinner trapped in his sin versus the one “whose trespass has freely been forgiv’n” and “whose sin is wholly covered before the sight of heav’n.” We sang it to the tune of RUTHERFORD.

How blest is he whose trespass
Has freely been forgiv’n,
Whose sin is wholly covered
Before the sight of heav’n.
Blest he to whom Jehovah
Will not impute his sin.
Who has a guileless spirit,
Whose heart is true within.

While I kept guilty silence
My strength was spent with grief,
Thy hand was heavy on me,
My soul found no relief;
But when I owned my trespass,
My sin hid not from thee,
When I confessed transgression,
Then thou forgavest me.

So let the godly seek thee
In times when thou art near;
No whelming floods shall reach them,
Nor cause their hearts to fear.
In thee, O Lord, I hide me,
Thou savest me from ill,
And songs of thy salvation
My heart with rapture thrill.

I graciously will teach thee
The way that thou shalt go,
And with mine eye upon thee
My counsel make thee know.
But be ye not unruly,
Or slow to understand,
Be not perverse, but willing
To heed my wise command.

The sorrows of the wicked
In number shall abound,
But those that trust Jehovah,
His mercy shall surround.
Then in the Lord be joyful,
In song lift up your voice;
Be glad in God, ye righteous,
Rejoice, ye saints, rejoice.

Tuesday Hymns: “Almighty God, Thy Lofty Throne”

Our Tuesday Hymn for this week comes out of The Psalter, 1912 and is a loose versification of Psalm 89:14-18. Although this hymn, entitled in our modern hymnbooks, Almighty God, Thy Lofty Throne, did not make it into what we Presbyterians often call, the “Red Trinity Hymnal,” it is found in the “Blue Trinity Hymnal” of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Its theme is the glory of God. The hymn speaks of God’s holiness, justice, truth, righteousness, and power, yet, it also declares that in the midst of that majesty, His love and boundless grace are present for all who are His. Or, as Psalm 85:10 says, “steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

It is sung to the familiar tune, New Winchester, and is a reminder to us that just a few verses of a hymn can be packed with much truth about our holy God.

Almighty God, Thy lofty throne
Has justice for its cornerstone,
And shining bright before Thy face
Are truth and love and boundless grace.

 With blessing is the nation crowned
Whose people know the joyful sound;
They in the light, O Lord, shall live,
The light Thy face and favor give.

 Thy Name with gladness they confess,
Exalted in Thy righteousness;
Their fame and might to Thee belong,
For in Thy favor they are strong.

 All glory unto God we yield,
Jehovah is our help and shield;
All praise and honor we will bring
To Israel’s Holy One, our King.

Tuesday Hymns: “Psalm 5”

During our Sunday evening worship we sang Psalm 5 out of The Trinity Psalter. It is a beautiful Psalm about the justice and grace of the living God. One hears the Psalmist cry out about the trouble he faces day to day, and the realization that his only hope is to be found by “looking to [God’s] holy place, in [God’s] fear [to] worship there.” It is comforting for me to be reminded that the people of God of all the ages have faced many of the same struggles that we do, and that God’s “mercies are new every morning” for us, just as they were for them millennia ago (There is a reason the Psalms have been called “God’s Hymnbook“). We sang this Psalm to the tune of Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”

O Jehovah, hear my words;
To my thought attentive be.
Hear my cry, my King, my God,
For I make my prayer to Thee.
With the morning light, O LORD,
Thou shalt bear my voice and cry;
In the morn my prayer arrange
And keep constant watch will I.

Truly Thou art not a God
That in sin doth take delight;
Evil shall not dwell with Thee,
Nor the proud stand in Thy sight.
Evildoers Thou dost hate;
Liars Thou wilt bring to naught.
God abhors the man who loves
Deed of blood or lying thought.

But in Thine abundant grace
To Thy house will I repair;
Looking to Thy holy place,
In Thy fear I’ll worship there.
Since, O LORD, mine enemies
For my soul do lie in wait,
Lead me in Thy righteousness;
Make Thy way before me straight.

For they flatter with their tongue;
In their mouth no truth is found;
Like an open grace their throat;
All their thoughts with sin abound.
Hold them guilty, O my God;
Them for all their sins expel;
Let them fall by their own craft,
For against Thee they rebel.

But let all that trust Thy care
Ever glad and joyful be:
Let them joy who love Thy name,
For they guarded are by Thee.
And a blessing rich, O LORD,
To the righteous Thou wilt yield;
Thou wilt compass him about
With Thy favor as a shield.

Tuesday Hymns: Psalm 89:1-16

At Reformed Presbyterian Church in Beaumont, we traditionally sing at least one Psalm every Sunday night (of course, we sing Psalms during the morning services, also) from The Trinity Psalter. Over the last two weeks we have been singing Psalm 89. It is a Psalm about the Coming King and His reign over all the earth, but especially His reign over His people. It is sung to the tune of Ode to Joy by Ludwig von Beethovan, and I am not sure that I have ever heard a tune more appropriate for a text.

The first four stanzas (which comprise verses 1-16) speak of God’s Sovereign power over nature:

Of God’s love I’ll sing forever,
To each age Your faithfulness.
I’ll declare Your love’s forever,
Founded in the word from heav’n:
“With My Chosen I’ve made cov’nant,
To my servant David sworn:
‘I’ll your line confirm forever,
To each age build up your throne.’”

Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders,
Angels sing Your faithfulness.
For none matches God in heaven,
Who’s like God in heaven’s throng?
God is feared among the angels,
He’s more awesome than they all.
LORD, O God of hosts, who’s like You?
Mighty God, You’re girt with truth.

You rule over sea’s proud surging;
When its waves rise, bid them still.
You broke Egypt, left her dying;
Your strong arm dispersed Your foes.
Yours the heavens, earth’s bounds also;
You have founded all the world.
North and south You have created;
Tabor, Hermon, praise Your name.

You’ve an arm that’s great in pow-er;
Your strong hand is all supreme.
Your rule’s based on right and justice;
Cov’nant love and truth are Yours.
They are happy who acclaim You;
In Your favor, LORD, they walk.
In Your name rejoicing ever;
In Your righteousness raised high.

Tuesday Hymns: “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” (Psalm 2)

Presbyterians have a long history of singing the Psalms, and Crown and Covenant Publishers has blessed the church with a great resource entitled, The Book of Psalms for Worship. Since Hebrew poetry is characterized by parallelism more than meter and rhyme, the genius of the Protestant Reformation was “to translate the Psalms into modern poetry and sing them to the same types of tunes that people were accustomed to singing elsewhere—that is, in stanzas and lines of predictable length and with a regular rhythmic organization, or meter. (Hence, the term metrical.)” (“The Experience of Singing the Psalms” in The Book of Psalms for Worship, pg. xii.) The aforementioned book is filled with metrical Psalms which are easily sung by the people of God in corporate worship.

One example is our Tuesday Hymn of the Week, “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” which is a metrical version of the Second Psalm. The Psalm speaks of man’s futile rebellion against God, God’s declaring of His Son as the “Heir to earth and nations all,” and the good news (Gospel) that “blessed are all who in Him hide.” This version is sung to the tune, ABERYSTWYTH.

Why do Gentile nations rage,
And their useless plots design?
Kings of earth in schemes engage,
Rulers are in league combined.
They speak out against the LORD;
His Messiah they defy:
“Let us break their chains and cords,
Let us cast them off,” they cry.

He who sits in heaven laughs,
For the Lord views them with scorn.
He will speak to them in wrath,
And in anger He will warn:
“Yet according to My will,
I have set My King to reign;
And on Zion’s holy hill,
My Anointed will remain.”

“I the LORD’s decree make known;
This is what He had to say:
He declared, ‘You are My Son;
I have brought You forth this day.
Ask of Me and You I’ll make
Heir to earth and nations all.
Them with iron rod You’ll break,
Smashing them in pieces small.’”

Therefore kings now heed this word:
Earthly judges, come and hear.
Rev’rent worship give the LORD;
With your joy mix trembling fear.
Honor Him, His wrath to turn,
Lest you perish in your stride,
For His anger soon may burn.
Blessed are all who in Him hide.

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